Mutual aid emerging in communities to assist the vulnerable or marginalized during times of crisis is not a new concept. It has existed in societies for our lifetime. At its core, the catalyst for mutual aid is a grassroots responsibility to care for one another in times when the government, healthcare, and other systems are not capable enough to reach all the people affected.
PeaceGeeks has been both a local and global participant in supporting mutual aid action during times of crisis. Through our participation in Random Hacks of Kindness, we have supported projects that directly benefit non-governmental humanitarian organizations with digital tools, including mapping essential services for refugees and community empowerment for local networks of citizens. Our work with The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) culminated in a technology-driven networking site capable of connecting members, amplifying GNWP’s message to a broad audience, and attracting new members, partners, and donors.
The beauty of mutual aid is that in every instance it is a humanitarian response to assist others in a time of need. It is relief on a human scale directly from one group to specific people in communities. In some cases, the government has failed its people and mutual aid provides a bridge to assist every person through a challenging time. Different from a charity organization, mutual aid creates a symbiotic rather than a dependent relationship between reciprocators where operations are driven by volunteers to match the immediate needs of community members.
Canadian Mutual Aid
Local organizers in our hometown of Vancouver came together to build the VancouverSupport.ca site as a prototype for Metro Vancouver communities and others throughout British Columbia to exchange resources. The demand for this kind of resource exchange has exploded to include a COVID-19 Coming Together Facebook page.
Throughout Canada, many organizations have advocated tirelessly to fill the gaps between the Federal Government response and calls to action for vulnerable communities. The Mutual Aid Network Canada has published this comprehensive list of Community Response Networks with touchpoints across our country.
People coming together to help others during COVID is considered in Canada to be an essential service. There is a legal order to protect people and volunteers against any liability for their response during this pandemic. It is beneficial for nonprofits that provide care, food, social support services, and other necessities of life, for poor or vulnerable people. It covers the range of Canadian food banks, community kitchens, and outreach for unsheltered people that need direct human-to-human support at this critical time.
Mutual Aid Networks
Many examples of mutual aid networks are created using Google docs and forms so they are accessible for every participant. Slack is moderating a COVID-19 mutual aid network and users can easily locate volunteer-driven initiatives in their community. Slack also identified this North American database of localized resources offering local and national resources as well as support networks for healthcare providers and mental health supports.
Mutual Aid Disaster Relief is a North American grassroots disaster relief network based on the principles of solidarity, mutual aid, and autonomous direct action. They pride themselves on being a people-powered relief effort. They have experience in many crisis situations and were able to quickly mobilize efforts during the COVID pandemic. This network Collective Care Is Our Best Weapon was immediately accessible at the start of the pandemic and is now managed by Mutual Aid Disaster Relief.
In the United Kingdom, the Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK group of volunteers mobilized to coordinate care efforts for people who are self-isolating and those that are higher risk demographics, including the elderly, disabled, and those with pre-existing health issues. Individuals can find local resources in their community to provide support and resources.
Social systems in every country are affected by the global COVID crisis and community-led responses can often mobilize faster than government initiatives. The inequities in every society and the vulnerable in our communities existed before the crisis. With hope, all the awareness built during the crisis may help improve the future network of mutual aid after the crisis ends.
Human connection helps us to all stay resilient during this unprecedented global crisis. PeaceGeeks supports strong collaboration in communities and promotes connections between like-minded individuals to create a world where every person can step up to amplify hope for others. Our blog shares indispensable information in support of peacebuilders, healthcare responders, educators in vulnerable communities, mutual aid networks, and real-time tools for all citizens.
If you would like to share a resource in your area for global citizens to locate their base of mutual aid, please contribute to this blog.